The Kerala unit of the BJP has called for a state-wide hartal on Friday after the death of a man who immolated himself near the party’s Sabarimala protest venue today. This will be the fourth bandh called by the party since the Sabarimala temple opened for the annual ‘Mandalam-Makaravilakku’ pilgrimage in November.
Why is BJP protesting
The BJP’s main anger is with the CPI(M)-led state government over the contentious issue of women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple. The Supreme Court had on September 28 overturned a centuries-old ban on entry of women of all ages into the Lord Ayyappa’s shrine, triggering protests by the BJP. Earlier, women of menstrual age between 10-50 were denied entry into the shrine.
The party has now been protesting against police action on protests that were held against the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict in Nillakal base camp, one of the base camps of the pilgrimage, last month.
Why has BJP called for a hartal tomorrow
The BJP has called for a 12-hour hartal in the state tomorrow, protesting against the death of a man who died after attempting self-immolation. In the early hours of Thursday, 49-year-old Venugopalan Nair poured petrol on his body, set himself ablaze and advanced towards a tent in which BJP leaders and workers were protesting the police restrictions imposed by the ruling LDF government on the premises of the Sabarimala temple. The workers, along with locals, quickly doused Nair with water and admitted him to the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram with 90% burns. Nair, who was critical, passed away at 3:30 pm on Thursday.
The state party unit has said Nair shouted “Ayyappa Ayyappa” before setting himself ablaze. Ayyappa is the principal deity at the Sabarimala temple.
MT Ramesh, the BJP’s state general secretary, said in a Facebook Live video, “There are protests and prayer meetings across the state. But the Kerala government is pretending not to see this. They are trying to ignore the protests with utter contempt. With no alternative left, an Ayyappa devotee sacrificed his life. Kerala will react to this. He had sacrificed his life to force open the eyes and ears of the Marxist government..That’s why a 12-hour hartal from 6 am to 6 pm is being called tomorrow. All essential services will be kept out of the hartal.”
All examinations from classes 1 to 10 in schools have been deferred to December 21 and examinations conducted by Kerala University and Kerala Technological University postponed too in view of the hartal.
What were the reasons for earlier hartals
This will be the fourth hartal called by the party since the Sabarimala temple opened for the annual ‘Mandalam-Makaravilakku’ pilgrimage in November.
On November 2, the party observed a 12-hour bandh in Pathanamthitta district after an alleged Ayyappa pilgrim was found dead in Nilakkal, one of the base camps of the pilgrimage. On November 17, a state-wide bandh was called by the saffron party to protest the arrest and detention of KP Sasikala, a firebrand leader of the Hindu Aikya Vedi, a fringe Hindu outfit. On November 11, Thiruvananthapuram district underwent a 12-hour hartal following violent Yuva Morcha clashes with the police over the temple agitation.